It’s hard to find much fault with Yowmushi Pedal as far as I’m concerned. For a sports series with a difference, this one does pretty much everything I’m looking for. Great main character, deep supporting cast, detailed and accurate when it comes to the sports. This is the sort of show that got me invested in sports series in the first place, and no matter how great a manga is, it’s somehow just more satisfying to watch them play out on-screen (assuming they’re adapted as well as this one). The only problem is they’re even better when you find them after the fact and marathon them – because the wait between episodes is torture.
I’ll get to some of the things that made this ep such a winner for me in a minute, but first things first is Onoda. Seriously, this kid is so goddamm easy to root for. His attitude is refreshingly different from what we usually see from anime MCs, sports and otherwise – he just jumps on and goes, usually with a big smile on his face. He manages to be positive without being goody-goody, probably because he’s clearly paid his dues in loneliness and social isolation. He’s freakishly good at his chosen sport, but there’s a realistic reason for that – he’s used to lugging that monster of a mommy bike up hill and over dale, so riding a road racer is like a vacation for him. In his own words, “I can go twice as fast with the same effort!”
It’s really no wonder the third-years in the recovery van are so unabashedly rooting for him at this point – the Kanzaki siblings certainly already were. Tadokoro is the first to join the Onoda harem, despite Makishima’s skepticism – but it’s clear Kinjou is actively on-board too. As I mentioned last week I like the fact that the third-years here aren’t scary ogres – just experienced and talented, but more interested in seeing what the new kids can do than hazing them. And Kinjou certainly sees that Onoda is something special, just from being able to climb on a racing bike for the first time and bully his way up the mountain. But he’s doing a lot more than that.
In fact, Onoda chews the other freshmen up and spits them out pretty quickly, reeling them in (in truth he seems not even to notice them as he blows by) not long after the serious climbing starts – in and of itself a pretty impressive achievement. But the fact is between the start on the mamachari the five minutes lost when he laid it down, Onoda is 8 minutes behind the two experienced cyclists in front – a ridiculous deficit in a 60K race, in theory impossible to make up. Even when Onoda continues his 90 RPM cadence once the climbing starts, Makishima points out that he’ll never catch up. Kinjou shows his stuff here by laying out the truth for Onoda and giving him a choice – ride steadily as he is and finish third, a remarkable achievement all things considered – or ride at an insane pace to catch up, likely destroying himself in the process and forcing an abandonment.
It’s no mystery what Onoda is going to do – racing with Imaishi and Naruko is why he joined the club in the first place. And it’s worth pointing out that the shop-girl at the base of the climb told the oji-san (in a pretty hilarious scene, generally) “That last boy may have been the fastest of all.” Meanwhile Imaishi and Naruko are feeling each other out as breakaway riders do, with the added complication that neither really knows what the other is capable of. Imaishi suspects, as he should (and correctly I might add) that for all his bluster Naruko isn’t at his best on climbs – most sprinters aren’t. And he’s plotting just the right moment to see whether the little redhead has the kintama to keep up with an acceleration on a climb. These two are acting as if they’re the only ones in the race – and there’s no reason they shouldn’t.
Here’s the interesting question about what happens next – did Kinjou ask the strange foreigner (“Great! Desu ne?”) to buy Onoda some time by slowing the leaders down? It would be a bit of a sneaky move, but in truth the status quo is no way to measure what Onoda is truly capable of – what might he have been able to do if he’d been on a road racer from the beginning? That odd fellow is in fact one Mr. Pierre (Horiuchi Kenyuu), another major piece of the puzzle slid into place – Imaishi has a guess about who he might be, based on his clear knowledge of cycling and the fact that he’s got Kinjou’s number on his sumaho. And he certainly manages to slow the two leaders down with his “I’m fine – I just got excited and stopped breathing.” (I’ll have to remember that one).
Whether that sidetrack was an intentional attempt to level the playing field or not, it probably cost Red–head and Tall Boy about two minutes – plus the time it takes them to get back into their cadence. That’s critical, because when Onoda catches up (and it seems more a “when” than if at this point) the question is whether he’ll have so thoroughly drained himself in the effort that he has nothing left in the tank. Fortunately for him once the summit is reached the next phase of the race is going to be a totally different sort of challenge, but one that can as mentally draining as the climb is physically – safely descending a steep and winding mountain road without losing too much precious speed to braking. It’s probably the part of the race where experience is most crucial – and that’s yet one more area where Onoda isn’t fighting those two on a level playing field.
Now – just what the heck is the story here?